tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC December 16, 2011 2:00pm-2:26pm PST
you be playing for your youngsters this holiday? >> which one will i be playing while they're not listening? probably "rudolph the greedy bastard." all of them, though, were hysterical, but rudolph is a great one. >> a delight to see your face and a delight to hear your beautiful sounds, toure. that'll do it for us. i am dylan ratigan and "hardball's" up right now with chuck todd. mitt rising. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chuck todd in tonight for chris matthews. leading out of tonight, is newt still the front-runner? the roller-coaster ride that's been the republican nomination fight has been even wilder this week. on monday, the question was, how strong was newt gingrich going to get? after the final iowa debate last night, the question has to be asked, is it really fair to even refer to gingrich as "the
front-runner." mitt romney, at least for this 24-hour period, seems to be embracing that inevitability campaign again. gingrich, who was probably disappointed romney chose not to tobacco h attack him last night, instead had to fend off those behind him in the polls. the race has been so unpredictable that one poll has had five leaders in its last five surveys. the final stretch at the top of the show. plus, newt is certainly what military strategists call a target-rich environment. we'll take a look at some of the nastier things republican establishment types have been saying about newt. hoping to knock him off before president obama gets a chance to do it. also, a very important story that has been under the radar. a third party run. our pollsters believe it now looks increasingly likely that no matter who is nominated, someone will make a serious independent bid. you think you know which party benefits? you may be surprised. and which republican candidate earned a 12th, count them, 12th pants on fire for yet
another whopper during last nee night's debate? and at the end, we'll remember one of the gifted, most er eruediet and talented man of our times. christopher hitchens lost his battle with cancer yesterday at the age of 62. we'll start with the republican field. john heilemann is a national affairs editor for "new york" magazi magazine, and of course, an msnbc analyst, and susan page is the washington bureau chief for "usa today." welcome, both of you. john, let me start with you. mitt romney got a big old plane today, his first press charter. >> yep. >> loaded up members of the press, flew that nonstop flight that doesn't exist from sioux city to greenville, south carolina, got the most important rising star governor to endorse his campaign. mitt romney acting like a fro frontfron front-runner again. >> he is, chuck. i saw him this morning in sioux city before he took off for
south carolina. he had a very confident, very assured mien to him out there, as he did in the debate last night. and i think part of the reason for that is he had the nikki haley endorsement in his pocket. he's also, i think, starting to see some movement internally in their polling. some that's reflected in the public polling also, that seems like gingrich is softening. and he's also bending in iowa a little bit, and he's had a chance to look at the television in iowa, where he see as hi pro-romney super pac pounding gingrich mercilessly over the air, along ron paul who's doing the same thing, all of reasons which is why they might think he might just win the iowa caucuses. >> $3 million attack ads are hitting gingrich. right now we were showing pictures. mitt romney is campaigning in south carolina today. but gingrich did come under fire. michele bachmann is the one who was the aggressor last night. and i want to show this fight
that she picked with gingrich over an issue that can go to the concerns of some iowa caucusgoers. here's what she hit. >> he had an opportunity to de-fund planned parenthood and he chose not to take it. that's a big issue. sometimes congresswoman bachmann doesn't get her facts very accurate. i have a 98.5% right-to-life voting record in 20 years. >> because this isn't just once. i think it's outrageous to continue to say over and over, through the debates, that i don't have my facts right, when as a matter of fact, i do. i'm a serious candidate for president of the united states, and my facts are accurate. >> it got testier. today bachmann was asked if there was a sexist element to how gingrich treated her last night. listen to how she responded to that question earlier today. >> i think that'd be an observation that people looking
at that would have to make that observation. i'm a serious candidate for the presidency and i think it's important that i be treated as an equal on that stage. they've said this is a two-man race and i would agree. it's newt romney versus michele bachmann. >> it's interesting that she would not rule -- she wasn't shutting that door, which means she's doing this. yes, if someone wants to call it sexist, yes -- >> i think it's pretty clear she thinks it was sexist. and you know, michele bachmann did not back down last night. you know, she didn't just make her initial planned attack on gingrich, but she came back at him again and again. and on a couple issues. and this is great for mitt romney. because michele bachmann, you should definitely treat her seriously, but we don't see her as the likely nominee. but every vote she peels away comes from -- more likely to come from gingrich than from romney. the better she does, the worse gingrich does, and that's all good for romney. >> you know what's interesting here, in an informal survey of colleagues, this is splitting along gender lines.
and some of my colleagues today, who are women, thought it was sexist. and some of the men thought, maybe she just gets under gingrich's skin. >> well, gingrich can be condescending to men and women. >> equal opportunity. >> yes, equal opportunity condescension. but when there's only one woman on stage and you're c condescending to her, i think it comes across as sexist. >> john heilemann, this is one of those cases, i think your partner in crime tweeted this last night, mark halperin, maybe it was you that tweeted it, you guys have become one entity, like newt romney, right? but the way rick perry gets under mitt romney's skin, where he almost gets rattled with anger when he gets attacked, we're sensing that a little bit between bachmann and beginning ric gingrich, no? >> i think the point you made about him being an equal with opportunity offender when it comes to arrogance and condescension is a fair one. but she does seem to have his number a little bit. and they are aware of that in the bachmann campaign, and they
are going to try to exploit it. i think that all three of the second tier candidates last night had reasonably decent nights. i mean, i think bachmann had the best night at the debate. perry had not as good a night, but still a decent night for him. and rick santorum did okay. and as susan was saying, it's the case for all three of those candidates, if they start to inch up in the polls, that's all good news for mitt romney, because every vote they take either out of newt gingrich's current support or out of his potential support, it's all gingrich suffering in those situations. and a ron paul victory or a mitt romney victory, obviously, those are both good outcomes for mitt romney, as long as he can stop newt gingrich, he's the winner in iowa. >> you know, susan, timing's sometimes everything in in a debate, and mitt romney got hit early, and then seemed to gain his footing, talking about his own temperament issue. here's how he handled one question, and he decided, i've got to get this temperament
issue out of the way and here's how to do it. >> i sometimes get accused of using language that's too strong. so i've been standing here, editing. i'm very concerned about not appearing to be zany. >> of course, zany being in reference to the question about -- that jeff zeleny of "the new york times" asked mitt romney, whether zany ideas are coming out of the white house, and of course, mitt romney picked up that word "zany" with relish. did gingrich -- how is gingrich holding up? he seemed to be okay at the debate, but, boy, he's getting pummeled on the air. >> i think it's hard when everybody's attacking you and you're on the defensive, not on one issue that you have to address, but you have to address the freddie mac issue and then you have to address the abortion issue and the temperament issue. it was a cumulative effect. i thought it was an hour into the debate before he was able to find his sea legs and becomes
the confident figure we saw there. i had already filed two stories for "usa today" before that happened. >> there you go. timing a lot. john heilemann, what i feel like is a story that we can't fully report out yet until the fund-raising reports go in, but it seems clear to me that gingrich, while serving in the polls didn't get this online surge of money that we have seen other candidates get when they've surged, particularly look at herman cain, right? much less sort of presidential credibility when he surged, and he was getting all these donations. is the gingrich campaign just not good at this? >> well, that certainly seems to be part of the case, chuck. although, you know yesterday that the las vegas billionaire pledged $20 million to gingrich, obviously not in direct contributions -- >> for, what it's worth, they do deny the $20 million figure, but then that's all they deny. >> okay. >> clearly some money's coming from mr. aideaidelson. >> and i know the gingrich
campaign thinks that that's the case. but they have not exploited that in terms of fund-raising, you're absolutely right, chuck. and i find the whole thing curious, even on a bigger level than that. put aside the fact that gingrich's getting attacked. he doesn't seem like he's really running for president, still. he is not in iowa today. everyone did at least one event here in iowa today. iowa is key to his success. he's not here today. nobody really knows where he is. he's going back to washington to go to church. there's an event for callista in virginia. why is there an event in virginia when the virginia primary's a long ways off. he's not planning to come back to the state in significant way until after christmas, and that seems just extraordinarily strange. he seems to have bought the notion that he can win this thing in a totally unconventional way. that when people wrote him off back in june, they were all foolish. he can do this his way. and i got to say, it looks very -- it's very curious. because he has enough support out here, even among some of the iowa establishment figures, he could run a pretty strong public schedule out here, but he's not really trying.
and everyone's sort of scratching their head. >> susan page, let's look at the trend line. real clear probation. first, you see gingrich's rise since the first of november, but there's a hook in that rise that's happened over the last few days. they average all these polls. whereas mitt romney's line has been hovering around 20 to 25%, of course, the entire time, which has been romney's problem. so which brings me back to the nikki haley endorsement. it is, on one hand, payback. mitt romney one of the first presidentials to endorse her before she was the clear front-runner. he did it before it was cool to get behind nikki haley, before sarah palin did it and all of those things back during those primaries in 2010. but it now does raise expectations in that state that he did not do well in four years ago and nobody thinks he's going to do well in this time. >> well, i don't think we quite know how he's going to do in south carolina. >> that's true. >> does somebody get steam out of iowa, or do you have such a mixed result, a romney victory
or a ron paul victory that doesn't catapult anybody who we would see as a serious contender for the nomination? you know, it certainly provides with him some important endorsement in south carolina, and it makes it more of a game there for him. and of course, their real prize, florida, the next state down the line. that's where the romney people really hope to go head on head with whoever the other finalist is and make it clear that rom y romney's the nominee. >> john heilemann, very short, if ron paul wins the iowa caucuses, i have a few sort of elite type of sources around washington, d.c. who have secretly been trying to kill the iowa caucuses for years. but they make the claim if ron paul wins iowa, this is the beginning of the end of iowa. >> there are people, serious people in the republican party and probably some in the democratic party out here who have been saying exactly the same thing to me this week. >> susan, you agree with that? >> you wanted it short. >> so bachmann wins the ames straw poll and ron paul wins the iowa caucuses can --
>> the one-two punch, that is devastating to our friends in the iowa republican and democratic parties. hey, i like des moines. i like eastern iowa. i like sioux city. and you guys found out, right, john, they have pretty good m mexico food in sioux city? >> the best taco. >> it's a hidden gem of iowa. susan page, john heilemann. thank you both. coming up, is 2012 a year that we're going to see a serious independent run for the presidency, like '68, like '92? it could happen and it could tilt the balance to one of the major party candidates. that's ahead. you're watching "hardball," only on msnbc. [ male announcer ] you are a business pro. lord of the carry-on. sovereign of the security line. you never take an upgrade for granted.
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will you promise, if you don't win this nomination, and you're doing very well here in iowa, that you will support the republican nominee and not run third party? >> well, i'll give the same answer i've given about 39 times now. that i have no intention of doing that. i plan to do my very best and see what happens in the next two months. >> welcome back to "hardball." that was ron paul on fox last
night, leaving that door wide open on the possibility that he could run as a third party candidate. it's an idea that seems to be gaining some momentum as millions of americans expect to be distressed by their choice in november, no matter who the two nominees are. the latest "usa today" gallup poll shows a majority of americans believe a third party is needed. in fact, 54% of americans nationwide believe the two major parties have done such a poor job that a third party is needed. if someone does run as an independent for president, which party gets helped and which one gets hurt? willie brown is former mayor of san francisco and michael steele is a former rnc chairman, who is also an msnbc political analyst. mr. mayor, i'm going to start with you. because i distinctly remember 1992, a very, very weak -- perceived to be weak democratic nominee limping out of the primaries, barely beating jerry brown in primaries, a guy named bill clinton. and you were among some who were
saying, look, if this clinton guy's going to be this weak, let's just nominate pro, because you thought perot would help clinton. it turned out that perot helped clinton. do you sense that same feeling in '92 that you saw today in 2012? >> i do think that there's the distinct possibility of a third party candidacy in the year of 2012. i also think that the obama people would not really want that to happen. >> there are, obviously, some real difficulties with any third party candidacy, and with the predictability of which party benefits from it. my guess is almost all of the candidates would prefer for politics to be played between republicans and democrats and no independent involvement. >> well, it does mess up the math. you know, michael steele, it's interesting that mayor brown says that. only because i can't -- you do the numbers and you crunch this, and i go seven out of ten times, and i think a third party candidacy makes an obama
landslide more likely than we realize. what do you say? >> actually, i kind of agree with the mayor there. and it's good to see the mayor again. and i think that he's on to something. i think it really boils down to who that third party candidate is. i think in the case of the gop, if you're looking at a ron paul jumping into the third party ring, yeah, he's going to have an impact, because he's going to have a lot of libertarian conservatives and conservatives generally who are not, you know, enamored with mitt romney, if romney is the eventually nominee, saying, look, i'm going to go this way, which opens up a real avenue with independents for obama. if it's huntsman, on the other hand, huntsman could very well eat into that very strong independent base that the president's going to rely on for his re-election, which would probably more likely benefit the republican nominee. >> you know, mayor brown, the
other thing that i hear one of the theories of the case is, we should stop assuming it's going to be one. that we have such a volatile nature in the electorate, occupy on the left, which seems to be upset about a quarter of the american public, tea party on the right, another quarter of the american public. put them together, that's half. you can't imagine one guy or gal being able to appeal to both of those populous entities, so maybe we end up with two semi-serious independent candida candidacies. you guys out in california do this a lot. >> i think it would be a mistake, frankly, to limit the potential to just huntsman or paul. i genuinely believe that our friend, newt gingrich, is a more distinct possible third party candidacy coming out of the republican operations than almost anybody else on the ballot. after all -- >> what gives you that? >> well, he's the guy that has no real structure, for running for president.
he's the guy that appeared to have abandoned the race some time ago. he's the guy that has a considerable amount of the baggage. he's the guy that a number of republicans are already speaking about in a negative fashion. and newt is a really fighter. he doesn't take that easily. and he will view himself as being a viable candidate for democrats, for republicans, and for everybody else, and that he's without the need to have any of the usual party structure. and if he thinks that way, his ego, i think, is massive enough to propel him into the race, and for the first time, a real, serious, mainstream party politician running as a third party candidate. that persons should fear more than anything else. >> you know, michael steele, actually, mayor brown brings up an interesting issue. the republican party establishment not treating newt gingrich very nicely. if you do perceive to alienate him, it could push him, and i've
noticed that, for instance, with ron paul, in fact, there seems to be almost be a concerted effort, particularly on that stage with the candidates, where they're like, no, no, no, we love you, ron paul, stay here. >> you're my boy! >> we're seeing a little bit more of that, because we've seen those polls. paul would be a real problem for a republican nominee. >> i think you're dead-on there, chuck. i think the way they're going after newt right now, and it's visceral. i mean, people are reacting, the establishment's reacting in every corridor against him. i mean, you know, yeah, i'm sure it's stinging newt very strongly. i don't know if it stings him strong enough to want to buck the party and go third party. i just don't see that element in place. i do give credence, though, to what the mayor just said about how it could potentially play out with certainly the two that we've already mentioned and having newt gingrich kind of lingering in the wings, thi wig about this thing, particularly
if this savage beating he's getting continues. >> you know, these wildfires in politics always start out west, mayor brown. i know americans elect, which is this entity that is trying to get on the ballot in all 50 states, they claim they're not a third party, just a third way to get on the ballot, and that whoever's the nominee then has to find somebody of their opposite party. are they getting buzz in california or is this idea of somebody else getting buzz in california? it just strikes me that we would hear it there first, because of the volatility you guys have been experiencing in politics, frankly, more than we have. >> well, at the moment the democrats dominate california. there's a huge independent base, but the independent base is to the left of the democratic party in california. there virtually is no real significant tea party movement in california or real conservative movement in california. so, no, there does not appear to be the kind of volatility surrounding a potential oddball
third party independent challenge that you are seeing in some of the other states. california is pretty much in the box as it relates to democrats. >> and michael steele? any ceos out there that you think of, business world folks? who is that you think could be viable? >> for a third party? >> yeah. >> man, that's hard to say. i mean, you know, you got -- you've got some folks in the business community who may look at something like this, but i'll tell you, the politics right now, chuck, as you know, in this town is so poisoned. a lot of the business community, you can see this with the money. they're sitting back. and i can't see someone actually jumping into this thing and saying, i'm going to put my name into the ring that way. and having said everything that i've said so far about this. at the end of the day, i still think that it's not that likely that a third party candidate's going to emerge, because it's just not practical from the standpoint of jumping in this thing at the time they'd have to jump in to do it, to get on those ballots and to be
successful in the fall without helping or hurting one candidate or the other. >> well, i didn't mean to try to stump you there, but i wanted to make that point. there's the issue here. there is no obvious person. there is no ross perot. there is no george wallace. there is no obvious, obvious third party candidate. willie brown and michael steele, always a pleasure to talk to you both. >> thank you, chuck. up next, which republican presidential candidate earned a 12th pants on fire rating over at politifact for not telling truth at last night's debate, again. you're watching "hardball," only on msnbc.